By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Ingra & Co. just completed its second full year in business in Shinnston, ending the year with its annual production – this year called “Ever Wonder”. Recital nights, held in the auditorium at Lincoln High School, were June 9th and 10th, and both evenings were sold out in advance with the public, friends and families waiting in line for the doors to open. What a nice problem to have!
Dance instructor/owner Ingra Pratt said she came up with the “Ever Wonder” theme, focusing on just about everything a child might dream of … for example, being a Super Hero, visiting Candyland, going to the circus, being a fairy, etc.
“The costumes were very theatrical and detailed, and the sets for each performance, too, were elaborate, requiring several trips with a U-Haul to transport all of them to the school,” she said.
Fortunately, this is not a job for Ingra; it is her passion. In fact, she loves it so much that she says she often feels like she is getting away with doing something she shouldn’t be doing because it is so enjoyable!
Ingra spends an entire year gearing everything towards this year-end production that gives her students an opportunity to showcase their talents and what they have learned.
“It is hard to believe how much planning and work goes into these two two-hour performances,” she explained. “But it is a lot of work. I do all the choreography, costume designs, sound effects, set designs and tailor the music specifically to each routine. My husband and my parents helped with some of the set building, and this year, parents volunteered to help out a lot backstage. I consider myself very fortunate to have these kinds of parents, And many of the dads have volunteered to help with sets next year! I am truly so blessed.”
What happens to all of these highly crafted sets that are constructed each year? Well, she is building an inventory – one that will continue to grow each year. Some pieces can perhaps be repurposed and reused in the years to come … and some of last year’s sets were loaned out for use at special school events at Lincoln High School.
Ingra offers classes seven days a week! She taught 22 classes a week this past year with 120 students learning various styles of dance. Most students have re-enrolled for next year, and there is a waiting list of at least 30 waiting to get in!
When asked about class size, Ingra said that she prefers to keep them rather limited in number. “This year I had one class with 12 students and I thought that was too much because I want each student to have individual attention; that is how they progress. But because there are so many wanting to learn, I may have to accept the fact that some classes will be a little larger than I would like,” she added.
“I was determined to be successful when I opened the studio, but I never expected this!” she remarked. “It has been a great surprise. I am so grateful for the support of this community; it has been overwhelming! And I believe it has been good for the City as well because I have kids coming to class from neighboring counties as well and often their parents have the opportunity to see what Shinnston has to offer while they wait.”
Students enrolled at Ingra & Co. range in age from 3 to 21, and she has a growing list of adults up into their 60’s who have expressed interest in taking classes as well!
While some may think that three years old is a little early to begin dance classes, Ingra explained, “For this age, I call it ‘creative movement’, and actually it is good for children before they go to school. In addition to fitness, strength and flexibility, it introduces them to social awareness. We sing and do motions with the songs; even the stretches we do are set to a song accompanied by a story. They learn to wait in line and wait their turn and it’s a good introduction to working as a team. Sometimes at this age it is difficult for a child to express him/herself with words, but it is not too early for them to express themselves with creative movement.”
Ingra also added that children are often somewhat embarrassed to perform on stage. “This year, however, our little ones amazed me. They did even better on the stage than they performed in class. That delighted me!” she added.
Now that the year-end production has been presented, what will Ingra be doing with all this spare time? She will still be at the studio most days!
“Now I begin planning the theme for next year!” she concluded. “Last summer we redid a room backstage for costumes, and I want to continue to make improvements to enhance the studio even more. This place has a really nice feel because it was once a theater, and I want to keep that feel. Ingra & Co. is keeping arts in the community!”
Students are already pre-registering online at www.ingrasdancestudio.com. The studio will still offer two days of open house registration in late August. Check the website or look on facebook for updates, and watch for banners announcing registration dates and times on hanging outside the studio later this summer.
All of the students/dancers appear on stage during the finale at Ingra & Co.’s year-end production. Photo courtesy of Sam Santilli.
Each of the ‘Dancers of the Month’ receive a trophy at the end of the year. Pictured above, Madelyn Fortney receives her trophy. Photo courtesy of Sam Santilli.
Appearing in the opening number of the ‘Ever Wonder’ production are Jenna Garrison as Alice and Brook Price as the Caterpillar. Photo courtesy of Sam Santilli.